One of the greatest stories ever told is in the Bible, about the parting of the Red Sea. Egyptians armed like Militia were chasing the Israelites and they got to a dead end. More like a dead sea end. Moses who was leading them sought God’s direction and he was told to take a step into the water and the waters would part. Now who can believe such crazy instructions? That was the only life line they had to escape imminent annihilation.
I’ve been to coasto many times and have stepped into the Indian Ocean, so the thought of it parting just because my foot is in the water is beyond human comprehension. How can all this endless water divide itself? How can we walk on dry sea bed through a tunnel with high walls of water? It’s like walking between the UAP tower and KICC. Only this time they are next to each other and divided only by a footpath. That’s not too scary as those buildings were done by professional builders. Now imagine if they are made of water on either side with sharks checking you out, salivating the way you do when eating their relas at Mama Oliech.
Now that’s what life at 40 is asking me to do. At least in a sense. All familiar ground has been swallowed up and I have to trust and look up. Move from a mjuaji to a mjua nothing. Then add the fact that I’m a guy and we don’t ask for directions. Iko shida…
I had lunch this week with my good pal Annie at the UN complex. I was there with my team doing a setup for the UNEP conference. Annie is one of the most humble and roho safi people I know, yet she has a corner office with a big title on her door. She’s had a long career at the UN and has worked in various stations across the world.
During lunch, she told me that her break came in the late 90s when she went to study French in Paris after campus here. She applied and got a short kibarua at the UN office there, that was renewed a few times thanks to her hard work, Kenya style. Then a gap opened up at The Hague (not ICC) for a four-month contract to relieve a lady who was going on maternity leave. She took it, and left her Paris job that was looking like it was going to be confirmed. It was a big gamble. In addition she had been warned that the boss lady at The Hague made Ocampo look good in comparison. She was impossible to please.
So one early morning in typical European dark, grey, depressing weather, she entered her small car (thank God it wasn’t a nduthi in that weather) with her few earthly belongings to drive into this very uncertain future. She knew she would live in her car if she didn’t get affordable accommodation at The Hague. When Annie got to her new office, she worked harder than those guys who pull over loaded mkokotenis daily from Marikiti to Uhuru Highway and beyond.
She had to come through for her ‘’the devil wears Prada’’ boss. To the surprise of everyone, her boss liked her work and offered her a contract a few months later. She got P1 status, which is a big thing for a new UN staffer I would imagine. Now she’s huko P4 with red plates on her SUV . During those times before her confirmation, while cohabiting with fear and uncertainty, she went to the airport thrice to get a flight back home. The only reason she did not return was because she didn’t have enough money to buy a ticket. We’ve all heard that the darkest hour is just before dawn. This was surely that hour for Annie. Sometimes we ought to thank God for unanswered prayers. Today she’s living life in abundance not just in her job at the UN, but has a wonderful family right here in our city in the sun.
Folks, the sea will only part when you step into the water and get your feet wet. The best things in life are hidden in deserts of bad weather, no money and even illness or personal tragedies sometimes. I have also noticed from Annie’s story and a few others, (myself included), that when the universe is about to make space for you it’s mostly at a time when you are most alone and for some, in a land far away from all familiar comforts. This is what happened to me in the late 90s too, before I discovered that my life would unfold in Kenya and in the enterprise space.
Your near and dear ones will seem like they don’t get you at all, during those defining moments when you are following your true north. Allow me to share a little wisdom at this point. While it is good to seek counsel from our significant others, sometimes we need to listen to ourselves (heart and gut) more and them less. I call this, reducing external volume. For me and perhaps Annie too, we had to be shipped to a foreign land to completely shut off the external volume. Maybe even break the volume knob so as to focus fully. I’m sure some of you guys reading this relate. Maybe you are currently in those faraway places dreading the scary future. Maybe that faraway place is right here at home, but your mind, heart and soul have shifted so far that few can get you (apart from your dog if you have one like me). Annie also had a dog that checked on her when she was at those crossroads.
So let’s step into the water and turn down the external volume, so that we can discover why we are still here and more importantly our next assignment.